How can you improve your listening? First, by admitting even the slightest possibility that you might not always listen with absolute effectiveness. So there is some room for improvement, however small. Always commit to improving. There are different depths of listening, based on how deeply you are listening to the other person. If you can identify these, then you can choose which you want to use. They are:
False listening occurs where a person is pretending to listen but is not hearing anything that is being said. They may nod, smile and grunt in all the right places, but do not actually take in anything that is said.
This is a skill that may be finely honed by people who do a lot of inconsequential listening, such as politicians and royalty. Their goal with their audience is to make a good impression in very short space of time before they move on, never to talk to that person again. It is also something practised by couples, particularly, where one side does most of the talking. However, the need for relationship here can lead to this being spotted (‘you’re not listening again!’) and consequent conflict.
Sometimes when we listen we hear the first few words and then start to think about what we want to say in return. We then look for a point at which we can interrupt. We are also not listening then as we are spending more time rehearsing what we are going to say about their initial point.
Selective listening involves listening for particular things and ignoring others. We thus hear what we want to hear and pay little attention to ‘extraneous’ detail.
Partial listening is what most of us do most of the time. We listen to the other person with the best of intent and then become distracted, either by stray thoughts or by something that the other person has said.
This can be problematic when the other person has moved on and we are unable to pick up the threads of what is being said. We thus easily can fall into false listening, at least for a short while. This can be embarrassing, of course, if they suddenly ask your opinion. A tip here: own up, admitting that you had lost the thread of the conversation and asking them to repeat what was said.
Full listening happens where the listener pays close and careful attention to what is being said, seeking carefully to understand the full content that the speaker is seeking to put across.
This may be a very active form of listening, with pauses for summaries and testing that understanding is complete. By the end of the conversation, the listener and the speaker will probably agree that the listener has fully understood what was said.
Full listening takes much more effort than partial listening, as it requires close concentration, possibly for a protracted period. It also requires skills of understanding and summary.
Beyond the intensity of full listening, you can also reach into a form of listening that not only hears what is said but also seeks to understand the whole person behind the words.
In deep listening, you listen between the lines of what is said, hearing the emotion, watching the body language, detecting needs and goals, identifying preferences and biases, perceiving beliefs and values, and so on.
To listen deeply, you need a strong understanding of human psychology and to pay attention not just to the words but the whole person.
Deep listening is actually known as ‘Whole person’ listening.
How to Listen in Persuasive Situations
As a speaker, you spend a lot of time thinking about the listener. But, how much time do you spend thinking about listening? How good a listener are you?
What is “Persuasive Listening”?
It is easy to assume that when you go to listen to a persuasive speech, you have already accepted that you are going to be persuaded. The speaker will try to persuade you. And you will listen to whatever he or she has to say. You are not going to argue or supplement. However, persuasive listeners are the kinds of persons who would naturally and routinely listen. This calls for altruistic love, an inner care for others, a curiosity about others and putting others above themselves.
Here is a great drill for becoming a persuasive listener:
Pay attention to others
Be connected to yourself—your feelings and thoughts about others When you are serious about listening to someone, first be sure you turn to them and look at them. And look into the windows of their soul – their eyes. Remembering (and working) to look a speaker in the eyes requires you to focus your attention on the speaker.
Next is that little voice in your head that can take you to where the speaker is heading or it can take you in a thousand divergent directions. Do not quash the little voice, the thoughts in your head, but focus them as you have focused your gaze – on the speaker. Get that little voice to work towards effective listening. Use it to remember your questions and organize the speaker’s words for you.
Listening is persuasive when it:
makes the other person feel respected and understood
helps the listener understand the feelings and perceptions of the other party
enables the listener to ask better questions
enables the listener to understand how to relate to the other party
Mastering the Art of Listening
Listening begins by learning how to read people by the energy they are emitting. Do they come across as excited and enthusiastic or do they sound lifeless and ready to go to sleep? Are they aggressive from the first words out of their mouth? Are you able to sense their negative or sceptical body language?
Effective listening provides valuable information and assists the listener in building relationships with the speaker. People love to feel listened to! Listening makes people feel special! Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation and the person you are talking to continually interrupts you? Does this annoy you? This usually stems from someone proving they have to be right or get the final word in. Are you guilty of this? Great listeners who become great speakers learn that the “less they talk, the more intelligent they sound”, and they also learn “how to say less to more people.”
Listening is attention, a stroke, a hug, a kind word. When you listen non-judgmentally and non-critically, you sell yourself as worthy of respect and affection. A level of trust begins more easily when you are listening. Listening not only allows you to receive valuable information, but is crucial to establishing a close and personal friendship. Think how valuable you will become with the person speaking if you are the only person in their lives who listens! Listening is the art of getting meaning from any situation. “Really listening” builds self-esteem in the speaker, It builds trust. It makes the speaker feel heard, understood, liked, respected, appreciated, and assisted.
Listening can be safely called the better half of conversation. When we use the term “conversation”, speaking is usually what comes to mind
first. However, speaking is only part of a conversation and usually not the biggest part. In the end, what makes the difference is what is heard, accepted, and internalized, not just what is spoken. It is important to let you know that persuasive listening is a whole new awareness, distinction and insight, and is very useful in the process of becoming a master listener. This is a process of creatively and actively absorbing what people say. It also involves learning to manage your listening, and really hearing what people are telling you, which also allows you to unleash your own speaking abilities. Persuasive listening can be interpreted thus: when you treat listening with the same care and concern you put into speaking, then your conversations will have the influence and effect you desire.
Your motivation comes from wanting to be the best you can be at your job and succeed in your business. Once motivated, here are some tips to help you master the art of listening.
Maintain eye contact. Looking people in the eye shows respect, and helps maintain focus on what is being said.
Ask questions. Asking questions forces you to concentrate on listening. Get in the habit of asking speakers to clarify or elaborate things you do not fully understand. This not only helps you to listen, it also will help you to learn things.
Take notes. Even if you never refer to these notes, the act of writing things down on paper forces you to concentrate on what the other person is saying. It also helps lock the information in your mind. The notes don’t have to be detailed – just jot down key words, phrases and numbers. People speak much faster than anyone can write. If you try to write down every word that is said, you will lose track of the conversation and miss some of the speaker’s main points
Get rid of distractions. Avoid the temptation to multi-task by doing paperwork, checking e-mail, etc., while someone is talking to you. Do not try to answer another incoming call on a different line. This really is aggravating to the other party. Leave it to the phone receptionist or voicemail to take a call back message.
Interject. From time to time during a long conversation, make brief comments such as: “I understand … I see what you’re saying.” It helps you to stay alert, and also shows the speaker that you are paying attention.
Do not interject your own thoughts. Make sure the other party has finished talking before you venture an opinion or explanation. Some
people have trouble getting to the point. Give them time to tell you what they want to say in their own way, although it is OK to move the conversation along by asking questions.
Do not rehearse a response. Listen to the full message. Only respond after the other person has finished talking. There may be key information not revealed until near the end.
Pause. After the other party finishes talking, pause for a few seconds before responding. The other person might be pausing just to catch a breath or formulate other remarks. Pausing also allows you a chance to soak up and retain what’s been said, as well as collect your thoughts.
Sit at the end of your chair. Being too comfortable promotes daydreaming. When speaking on the phone, try to assume the same businesslike posture you would if you were meeting the person face-to-face. This will help make you more attentive.
Tune in to unspoken messages. A famous study has shown that only 7 per cent of communication gets conveyed by spoken words. Facial expressions and body language account for 55 per cent, with the other 38 per cent coming through in one’s tone of voice. Over the phone, you will not have access to the visual information, but you will to the 38 per cent of information conveyed by tone of voice. This means that it is not enough to listen only to what people say. It is important to pick up on how they say it. They may be trying to tell you something, but do not know how, or are uncomfortable saying it. For example, a person may not want to get someone in trouble by criticizing performance. Yet, the person’s tone of voice often will reveal this information as the root of a problem.
Listening is truly an internal process. It is an art that takes its own attention to detail. You have to pay particular attention to what is being said, not what you think you hear. Persuasive listening is often overlooked in leadership training, even though it may be the most important leadership skill. Mastering the art of persuasive listening will make a big difference in your life.
As an exercise, try and spend one whole day focusing on what you hear and what new information you have learned that you may have taken for granted. Teach yourself to pause after someone finishes speaking a sentence and wait two or three seconds before responding. This may challenge you. Average people jump in right away at the back end of someone else’s sentence because they feel they have to be heard. They end up missing half of the spoken sentence because they are consumed with thinking about what to say instead of listening.
Start to catch yourself interrupting people or your speakers. Be humble enough to apologize and to let the person finish. You will know you are improving when you start to catch yourself and you start making improvements.
Source:National Open University of Nigeria.